Private Thomas Lawless (11 April 1888 – 8 June 1917) was an Irish-born Canadian soldier during the World War I. He is best known for becoming the second Canadian soldier of the First World War to be identified posthumously by use of forensic facial reconstruction and isotopes.
Lawless was born in Santry, Demense (the ruins are now a garden used as a community communal plot) Dublin, Ireland. He was the son of Jim Lawless and Rose Gaffney. He served in 103rd Calgary Rifles and the 49th Loyal Edmonton Regiment.
World War I
Lawless enlisted in the 49th Battalion Over-seas Expeditionary Forces and was dispatched to England and later France in 1917; he would not return home.
The skeletal remains of Lawless were discovered on October 31, 2003 outside of Avion, France alongside of those Pte. Herbert Peterson. Thee skull and mandible was CT scanned and a 3D copy was created by Z Corp. Dr. Andrew Nelson of the University of Western Ontario employed the noted Canadian forensic artist Christian Cardell Corbet to reconstruct the face which assisted in narrowing down the soldiers from 13 to 2. Due to depleted DNA it was not possible to trace the family of Lawless to obtain a photograph to help in the identification. Dr. Christine White along with Dr. Nelson suggested the concept of using isotope to definitively determine the location for which the subject was born. Water samples in tooth samples determined that the soldier was Thomas Lawless based on varied water oxygen levels which came from the demographics of Ireland; only one soldier missing from those who didn't return to role call on June 8, 1917 was born in Ireland. The Department of National Defence, Directorate of History and Heritage announced in January 2011 that the remains of the soldier were those of Pte. Thomas Lawless.
A public unveiling of the original forensic facial reconstruction was held at Gallipoli Armories, Newfoundland & Labrador on April 1, 2011. The original sculpture and related documents and the files of Christian Cardell Corbet were accepted into the permanent collection of the Canadian War Museum. They are to be presented in a ceremony on November 8, 2011 by Corbet along with a public lecture and forensic demonstration.
It has been misprinted that a photograph of Pte Thomas Lawless existed however the photo thought to be of Lawless was in fact that of his nephew. It has also been misprinted that Lawless was identified through DNA samples which is not the case he was identified through the use of forensic facial reconstruction and isotope research.
On March 15, 2011 Lawless was buried full military honours at La Chaudière Military Cemetery, Vimy, France.
- ↑ WWI soldier identified as Calgary man
- ↑ Soldiers of the First World War - CEF
- ↑ Case Files, The Case of the Intertwined Bones, pgs 109-114, Scholastic Publishing, 2011.
- ↑ Britain at War Magazine, Issue 49, News Feature - First World War Soldier Buried, pgs 10-11. May 2011
- ↑ http://isotope.info/where-science-meets-art/ retrieved October 10, 2011
- ↑ http://jeremybanning.co.uk/2011/03/15/burial-of-private-thomas-lawless-49th-battalion-canadian-expeditionary-force
- Case Files, (2011), Scholastic Publishing, ISBN 978-1-4431-0000-7
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